Interview with Gavin Jocius, Executive Vice President Canvas on Demand

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Gavin standing in front of wall (caption: Interview with Gavin Jocius)When it comes to online Canvas printing, Canvas on Demand is one of our top picks for best canvas printing. And when it comes to marketing those canvases on the web, Gavin Jocius is an expert. Since 2010 Gavin has successfully built the digital presence and growth for brands including LuLu, CafePress and now at his current role at Canvas on Demand. Also, he’s written a book (The Age Of Annoyance), spoken at the SXSW Conference and is the father. We got the chance to interview Gavin to find out more behind the scenes at their company. Read on to learn more and get inspired because he most definitely Rocks the Web.

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What is your best-selling product?

Photo-on-canvas. It is such a ubiquitous product. Everyone has at least one photo that they love and would want to hang on their walls. With cellphone camera resolution now, people have more photos than ever before – most of the time directly in their pockets. Anyone can take a picture on their phone and have it printed as a personalized work of art with just a few clicks.

Which product most surprised you in its popularity?

We recently launched coloring canvas, which has taken off. We knew that adult coloring books were popular, but we were not sure whether customers would want to hang their creations up on their walls after they finished coloring them. It turns out that they do. My four-year-old daughter and I, for instance, have one that we take down off the wall every few days and keep adding to it. I find it surprisingly calming, and it is a great activity that does not involve a screen or electronics.

From a product standpoint, when we were doing initial R&D, we found that our premium canvas construction was perfect for coloring on – as opposed to a traditional canvas which is not as firm. Traditional canvas works great if you are using a paintbrush. When you color on a surface with markers, however, you need it to be really sturdy so that you can put it on your lap or color on the floor, and maintain straight lines. Finding really cool and fun art was relatively easy for us given that there are plenty of coloring designs already available. The key was having the right substrate – in our case, it was our premium canvas wrap.

When we launched the collection on Facebook and quickly got over fourteen thousand likes, we knew that we had a winner. We continue to expand the catalog of images and plan to run a number of contests where people can share their work. We also think that coloring canvas will be an ideal holiday gift for kids, including one we created as an advent calendar.

What accomplishment are you are most proud of and why?

Learning how to generate revenue from social media really. Not that long ago, I had coworkers that felt that social media was just about content sharing and brand impressions. As a direct response marketer, I was confident that I could really drive immediate conversions via social media with the right approach.

With my team, we developed a system that combines mobile conversions with world-class social customer service that has been extremely successful. I am most proud of our accomplishments in driving social media revenue because there were plenty of “experts” early on who told us that it could not be done.

It was also nice for our social media efforts to be recognized in the art world. Skate’s, the global market leader in art business intelligence, released an Art Market Report entitled “Facebook Art Lovers Audience Report.” In the report, Canvas on Demand, which includes our art licensing brand Great BIG Canvas, was ranked second ahead of brands like Saatchi, Sotheby’s and Christie’s for Facebook audience engagement.

Are there any specific demographics that tend to resonate with your product?

“Family memory keepers” are our best demographic. They are wonderful. They are our moms, sisters, wives, girlfriends, grandmothers, etc. We all have family memory keepers in our lives who we love. They are the ones who remember birthdays, call us when we need someone to talk to, say heartfelt toasts at weddings, and remember the little things that make us happy.

Our products resonate with family memory keepers because they love to share life’s happiest moments.

What do you use to track and what metrics do you use to benchmark success?

Our key metrics are customer lifetime value and cost per acquisition. We have those down to a science across all of our marketing channels. We use a combination of third-party and proprietary tools.

How do you stay on top of the latest digital marketing trends?

Jim Tobin and the folks at ignite social media have a consistent flow of great information on their blog and email newsletters. I worked with Jason Falls on a number of projects while at CafePress, and I continue to ping him for ideas and advice.

I find that attending SXSW Interactive is great for recharging my marketing batteries. It helps for gaining knowledge but also for keeping me excited about my chosen profession.

Any memorable, unusual or creative designs stories that stand out?

Part of what makes our company great is that we have a team of experts that review every single image that we receive. Over the last ten years, we have printed millions of canvases. We have seen literally everything you can imagine. We never judge because we know how much people’s photos mean to them, and we put a great deal of care into making sure they look the best they can when we print them.

We ran a program called “Operation Hi Mom/Honey” where we gave a free canvas to any active military man or woman. They could upload a photo, and we would print it on canvas for mother’s day or their anniversary. We asked that they include a note with the canvas. We received submissions from all over the world: “classified locations,” aircraft carriers, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. Those were my favorite. They were so heartwarming and genuine. I could not imagine being away from my family on a deployment overseas. Those images helped remind my staff and me of the importance of honoring people’s memories.

What do you think makes a good leader?

I’ve been fortunate to have a number of great mentors throughout my career. I really admire people who can remain calm under pressure. Particularly in Q4 when we get a lot of holiday orders, and things get a bit crazy, it’s very important to keep your cool.

You wrote a book, do speaking engagements, give interviews. How do you manage it all?

When it comes to work, I believe very strongly in Pareto principle, aka the 80–20 rule. If 20% of your effort (time, resources, energy) produces 80% of your results – focus heavily on that 20%. On a regular basis when I am faced with conflicting priorities, I try to pinpoint what my 20% is and make sure that I try to execute as best I can on it. I am actually not a very good multitasker, so the 80-20 rule has worked well for me.

At home, I just do what my wife and kids tell me to do.

When not working, what hobbies, interests, and things inspire you?

I have always been into board sports. I grew up in Canada and started skiing when I was three years old and then switched to snowboarding in the 80’s. I try to go back to Canada every few years to heli-board which is probably my most favorite thing to do in life. In North Carolina where I now live, we have lots of lakes, and the last few summers, I have gotten into long distance paddle boarding.

In general, I am most inspired when I turn off my phone and return to the joys I had in my analog youth – that really just involves getting outside and being active.

I spend most of my time at work rotating between different screens, so it’s nice to just unplug and give my mind a digital detox from time-to-time.

What tips do you have for someone looking to create their own canvas print?

None. It’s super easy. Just upload an image and we’ll handle the rest.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Social is mobile. Make sure that any social marketing efforts you design are then linked to an amazing and intuitive mobile experience.

Video: Great Big Canvas

Watch Gavin speaking about Canvas on Demand’s sister company Great Big Canvas and their integration with Getty Images in this short video below.

Thanks so much to Gavin for taking the time to share is marketing tips and expertise with us! And thanks to Gavin for providing me with a free Canvas on Demand to test out, I created my own art and uploaded it and within a couple of weeks I had a piece of art to hang in my office.

What inspired you most about Gavin’s entrepreneurial story?

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Thanks again Gavin for the interview and sharing your story with our readers.